WOULD that we were all as sprightly or as skilled when we reach Hugh Masekela’s age. At 72, the South African jazz and funk composer still presented a show bounding with the edgy, youthful energy of the Afrobeat style, as exemplified by our host’s hip-swaying shuffle around the stage and deft, often aggressive flugelhorn interventions.
The thick-set, bald-headed, black-clad Masekela’s set was also well-composed. It was a real ensemble performance, his five-piece backing band providing some sterling musicianship, from the bouncing, shuffling percussion and liquid basslines of the Afrobeat style to 22-year-old guitarist Cameron Ward’s on-edge, wah-wah infused car chase funk guitars.
“The police are still after him,” joked Masekela, attempting to give the young Stevie Wonder lookalike a bit of rebel cred.
Perhaps the stand-out track of the night was a version of Afrobeat icon Fela Kuti’s Lady, a loving if somewhat intimidated paean to the African woman which cut off into one glorious instrumental diversion after another.
Still the genteel, cabaret-seated audience remained in their seats until commanded to dance to the breezy summertime rhythms of recent song Mokoti, finally loosened up by Masekela’s richly passionate music and winning conversation. “Before 1961 the indigenous people of Africa weren’t allowed to partake of alcoholic beverages,” he pointed out, “and so we became very good at drinking.”
He was born in his own grandmother’s shebeen, in fact, and as the carnivalesque cowbell and drum clatter of the encore stepped things up again after almost two hours, his claims to partying as hard as any Scot seemed not unfounded.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West